The Lion Whisperer: Kevin Richardson plays with white lions at a game park in South Africa
Each year, lions are raised in captivity in South Africa and then set loose in enclosed areas where hunters, many from the United States, gun them down. The toll in what one filmmaker calls slaughter, not sport: about 1,000 lions each year. Kevin Richardson hopes a new movie, White Lion, will give people second thoughts about participating in such hunts. "I just can't understand how anyone would want to shoot a lion that is clearly confined to a finite space with absolutely no hope in hell of ever escaping the so-called hunter," said Richardson, a self-taught "Lion Whisperer" and first-time film producer.
The film White Lion is about a rare white lion, who as a cub is cast out of his pride because of his colour. He is near starvation when he befriends an older lion who teaches him the ways of the wild. John Kani, a Tony Award-winning actor and playwright, is the storyteller.
Richardson, the movie's producer, first befriended a pair of lion cubs at the Lion Park outside Johannesburg 12 years ago, when the cubs were 6 months and he was 23. He began shortening his hours as a therapist in postoperative rehabilitation to play with his new friends. Soon, park owner Rodney Fuhr offered him a part-time job which became full time
Trophy hunting is big business in South Africa, worth more than 90 million dollars (£60 million) a year, according to the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa. Foreign tourists pay up to $40,000 (£25,000) to shoot a lion. The government promotes hunting as a revenue source and calls it a "sustainable utilization of natural resources." The hunters' association says 16,394 foreign hunters - more than half from the United States - killed more than 46,000 animals in the year ending September 2007.
Four foot Stewie named world's longest domestic moggy
20th October 2010
The massive Maine Coon moggy - from Reno, Nevada, in the U.S. - is just over four foot long and broke the Guinness world record for the longest domestic cat. He won the title by a nose from the previous record-holder who was half an inch shorter.
Stewie's owners, Robin Hendrickson and Erik Brandsness, decided to put the five-year-old forward for the record after hearing countless people remark on his length. The average cat spans 18 inches but Ms Hendrickson says Maine Coons are known as 'the gentle giants' of the cat world.
Spotted at last: Extremely rare Saharan cheetah photographed in the Niger desert
26th December 2010
One of the world's most elusive cats has finally been photographed after a year-long search by conservationists. The Saharan cheetah was captured in a series of murky images taken by a night-time camera trap in the deserts of Termit, Niger. Less than ten of the cats are thought to exist there and almost nothing is known about them except for their ability to survive without a permanent source of water in extremely high temperatures.
Scientists working for the Saharan Conservation Fund (SCF) last week released one of the photographs of the Saharan cheetah taken between July and August this year. Dr John Newby, CEO of the SCF project, said: 'I think we were more happy than surprised when the images turned up, because we knew cheetahs were in the general area because we had seen their tracks on several occasions. However, the area is so vast that picking up an animal as rare as this always entails a lot of luck and good judgement on where to place the cameras.'
SCF scientists concentrated their efforts on the wildlife refuges of Termit Massif and the neighbouring Tin Toumma desert. Although conservationists have been working in the area for the last ten years, the Saharan cheetah has only been spotted three times and never photographed there, until now. The Saharan cheetah rarely ventures out in the day. Scientists believe its nocturnal habits are down to conserving energy by staying out of the heat. It appears to have different colour and spot patterns to the more common cheetahs that live in other parts of Africa.
SCF's Dr Thomas Rabeil told the BBC: 'The cheetahs of Termit Massif are extremely shy, rarely revealing themselves to researchers and few visitors go there. Very little is known about the behavioural differences between the two cheetahs, as they have never been studied in the wild. From observations of tracks and anecdotal reports they seem to be highly adaptable and able to eke out an existence in the Termit and Tin Toumma desert.'
There are thought to be less than 250 adult Northwest African or Saharan cheetahs, making the subspecies critically endangered, but very little is known about the cat. The cheetah is found across the Sahara desert and savannah of north and west Africa in small, fragmented populations, the biggest of which is thought to be in Algeria. Last year, scientists using camera traps in the Algerian Sahara caught a close-up image of a Saharan cheetah in the Algerian Sahara. That image provided photographic confirmation of the presence of sand cats in the region, where more than 50 are thought to live - compared to ten or less in Niger.
Cat in a jar: Why Ksyusha the kitten loves tight squeezes
A kitten who likes to squeeze into empty jars has no fear of getting into the tightest of spots. Ksyusha- a young Himalayan Cat - has been pictured in a variety of poses, including sat in the washing machine and under the kitchen table. The playful female kitten started squeezing itself into jars from when it was a few weeks old.
Owner Yuriy Korotun, 37, who lives in Moscow, said: 'She was a special kitten from the beginning- always very playful. 'I came into the kitchen one day to find her in the jar. I couldn't believe my eyes. She likes hiding in different places and was full of character. 'It looks like she would have trouble getting out of the jar but actually
her body is not as big as it looks because of her large amount of fur.'
She added: 'I took a few photos of her at the start of last year and put them on the internet and have recently had a lot of comments about how cute she is.'
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